Punahou School receives $10 million gift to support student fina - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Punahou School receives $10 million gift to support student financial aid

Punahou School Punahou School
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Shortly after inaugurating its 175th anniversary, Punahou School announced today that it has received a $10 million gift from an anonymous donor that will have a multiplier effect on its student financial aid program. The gift represents one of the most significant philanthropic contributions in the school's history, and by far the largest ever made outside of a capital campaign. 

"This gift marks a milestone in our efforts to make Punahou accessible to more children with the talent and passion to thrive here," said Punahou School President Jim Scott. "Financial aid helps ensure that all students who have been admitted to Punahou can attend, regardless of their family's financial circumstances." 

During Scott's tenure, the socioeconomic diversity of the student body has grown dramatically, with an 84 percent increase in the number of financial aid awards over the past 20 years. During the same time period, the percentage of the student body receiving financial aid has nearly doubled, from 8 to 15 percent. Scott would like to see that number reach or surpass 20 percent - the equivalent of approximately 750 students - in the next few years.

Punahou's goal of increasing access for more qualified students depends on growing its financial aid endowment, which provides a predictable, long-term source of revenue for this designated use. The donor of the $10 million gift is deeply committed to the concept that diversity of thought can only be achieved through a strong commitment to access and her gift is a powerful affirmation of Punahou's aspirations. As an alumna whose life was shaped by Punahou, she understands the far-reaching effect a school like this can have in the broader community.

Scott added, "This is much more than a gift; it is a fundamental partnership that will transform thousands of children's lives and help the school to realize our potential as an educational thought leader locally, nationally and globally."

Financial Aid Benefits All Students
The goal of educating a student body that more closely reflects the diversity of the broader community is well known at the university level but rare at a preparatory school. 

"Financial aid is a key mechanism for cultivating a diverse learning community for all our students," said Scott. "They face the changing realities of the global century, in which the ability to navigate multiple voices and perspectives is essential. A diverse learning environment fosters core skills like critical thinking, collaboration, problem-solving and social engagement."

Junior School (grades K - 8) Principal Paris Priore-Kim said, "I see Punahou not just becoming diverse but leveraging diversity so that assumptions are explored and dislodged, so that we actually grow from knowing people who are vastly different from us and from ways of being that broaden our understanding of ourselves and others. It's not just becoming racially or socioeconomically diverse, but what results from that mix and how it shapes our community."

Academy (grades 9 - 12) Principal Emily McCarren noted that a diverse learning environment is critical to preparing Punahou students for the future. "Most fields are experiencing a shift in workforce where people from all walks of life are working together. There are fewer and fewer careers where you can just engage with people who you're really comfortable with or who grew up exactly like you did, so creating an environment where children learn how to engage and empathize with different viewpoints is an educational necessity."

While admission to Punahou is based on many considerations, a financial aid decision is made only after a child has been accepted. The amount awarded is determined by demonstrated need and financial aid supports a wide socioeconomic range of families. In the 2014 - 2015 school year, the average financial aid award was $8,925, less than half of the $20,700 tuition. The annual household income brackets with the largest number of financial aid awards were between $70,000 and $90,000, demonstrating that a significant number of middle-class families benefit from financial assistance, in addition to those with higher levels of need. 

Scott added, "Even a full tuition only covers only about 80 percent of the true cost of a Punahou education, elevating the importance of philanthropic fundraising and endowment to keep the school financially sustainable. That is why gifts like the one just received are so extraordinarily important - they allow Punahou to pursue its educational mission with thoughtful idealism and bold vision." 

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